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Photo provided via ABC Players' website.

‘Radium Girls’ play highlights current issues through artistic, historical lens

The ABC Players are performing Radium Girls at Stuart’s Opera House on Oct. 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., and on Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. Composed of nine actors, the show tells the story of a factory that produces radium-painted watches, along with its workers and their boss. The show also highlights the health concerns and long-term cost of productivity in the 1920s.

Though the play revolves around events that occurred over a century ago, many of the ABC Players involved in the production feel that the play’s themes remain relevant today.

“There's the whole issue of corporate liability,” Celeste Parsons, director of Radium Girls, said. “There’s the issue of workers’ complaints (not) being taken seriously, especially when they are complaints made by female workers. There's the rise of the consumer movement. There are a lot of parallels in this day and age.”

“The actors must navigate those conflicts as dynamic, nuanced characters,“ said Joe Balding. Balding plays Mr. Roeder, the factory owner in Radium Girls. His character is forced to weigh the success of his operation against the human and environmental costs while acting as both a financially focused factory owner and a private individual with moral prerogatives. This inner conflict that Mr. Roeder’s battles reflect concerns that Balding possesses about the world today.

“People are destroying our planet, and we need to really make noise about that,” Balding said. “Money is not going to sustain life. It's always about, ‘Well, it'd be too expensive, and it would be this, and it would be that.’ But if we continue, it’s not going to matter because we won’t be alive.”

Balding is one of only two Radium Girls cast members who portray a singular character. The other seven actors have upward of five roles each. Parsons's ensemble approach to organizing the production creates variety in the viewing experience and the opportunity for everyone to get plenty of time on stage.

However, having multiple roles created unique challenges for the actors. Crystal Bew acts as five characters in the production, ranging from a widow to Marie Curie. She initially struggled with switching between such diverse roles, but she has grown more comfortable in doing so as she has started to see aspects of herself reflected in a few of the characters.

“Some of the characters I can relate to, like I'm a mom and a wife, so I relate to the Mrs. Roeder character,” Bew said. “The characters that I can put myself into a little more, it's easier to get into those characters.”

ABC Players have had to adapt the way its members rehearse because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Until recently, the actors were practicing with masks on. Dress rehearsals have commenced, and the cast has been outfitted in costumes and makeup.

Attendees of the production are required to abide by Stuart’s Opera House coronavirus policies. Proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours previous to the show must be provided upon entry. Masks are also required.

Tickets cost $8 for students and $12 for adults. They can be purchased online on Stuart’s Opera House website.


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